Do you remember the date you were diagnosed with diabetes? Is there a pancreas-shaped mylar balloon that we can blow up and tie to our breakfast chair, in order to mark the day? (Quick Google search – no balloon found.) Many in the diabetes community call that diagnosis date their diabetes anniversary, or “diaversary,” for short. For some people, this moment is clearly marked on their mental calendars, while others don’t note their diagnosis date at all. It can be a bittersweet acknowledgement, putting the diabetes notches on our belts.
We talked with the ASweetLife community on Facebook to see if celebrating their diaversary was a thing. The responses were either a proud yes or a hell no, with little in between.
“Yes we do! We use it as a day to celebrate her strength.”
“I’ll probably remember it but not really celebrate.”
“Yes, it is acknowledged in some small fun way. He deserves some recognition for another year fighting and thriving in life!”
“Even if I remembered what day it was, I wouldn’t. After 20+ years it just becomes normal life, so there’s nothing special to really celebrate. It’s like celebrating Thursdays to me.”
“I will not celebrate a curse.”
There aren’t any rules about how you mark your diabetes anniversary, if you mark it at all. There’s no rule book when it comes to living with diabetes, and people develop individualized plans to best manage their own conditions. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to any of this.
But for me? I’m a celebrator. I like to give a nod to the day, or sometimes a middle finger to it, depending on how I’m feeling, but the day never goes by unnoticed.
My type 1 diabetes diagnosis was in September of 1986, just as second grade was starting. My parents confirmed that the exact date was the 11th, and for a long time I didn’t care about commemorating or celebrating the anniversary of my diagnosis. It wasn’t until I was a few decades into diabetes – around the 20 year mark – that I felt the urge to celebrate. And it wasn’t about celebrating the diabetes (because I still am not a fan) but more about celebrating the life I’ve built despite, because of, and simultaneously unrelated to diabetes.
We don’t have a diaversary party. We don’t send cards to my pancreas. (One year, my husband purchased a Fudgy the Whale ice cream cake and wrote “Type 1 Diabetes” on it and we destroyed it with spoons, but that was an exceptionally odd moment.) And sometimes “celebrating” the day is simply my husband giving my shoulder an extra squeeze in the morning, letting me know that he knows how hard I’m working. Or my daughter asking me how many years I’ve had diabetes but then adding, “You’re making it look easy, mom!!” (And then I give her money, because clearly she’s earned it.) Or me, looking at myself and knowing that I’m defying odds and kicking butt.
But we do acknowledge the date because it is proof that I’ve cleared another hurdle, reached another milestone, achieved another rotation of 365 days of making diabetes the thing that drives me instead of the thing that runs me over. Celebrating my diaversary is about repeatedly proving to myself that there is life after diagnosis, and it can be a good one … even if there’s no pancreas-shaped balloon. Yet.